Janet O'Brien

Janet O'Brien

National Manager - People & Performance

Tell us about your role at Conplant.

I’m involved in managing HR activities and I also work on a range of wider compliance and risk management activities associated with our industry. I’ve been with the company nearly 10 years… I’m from the UK originally but I’ve lived in Germany and the Cayman Islands before coming to Australia.

What’s your career background?

I’m a CIPD qualified HR practitioner and a member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI). I’ve also worked in other industries including in hedge funds, construction and telecommunications. So as you can probably imagine, joining Conplant was quite a change for me!

What’s the scope of Conplant, and how do you manage it?

We’re around 85 people over Sydney, the Hunter, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Perth, Adelaide, Coffs Harbour and Melbourne. I travel when I’m needed – I’ve been to most of the branches, but most of the day to day work is taken care of locally in Sydney.

What is it about HR that you love?

I love helping people solve practical problems. One of the most satisfying things for me is finding square pegs for square holes. Recruitment and developing people can seem mundane from the outside, but really, it’s an interesting challenge: finding great people that can do the job, and also fit in and contribute to the culture – and making sure those people can continue to develop and grow as new opportunities arise and things change within the business.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Conplant?

One great thing is that we don’t have a great deal of turnover. We have enough for it to be productive, but not enough to be disruptive. That means the expertise and that knowledge (and there’s a lot of that at Conplant) stays in the business and benefits customers and our people. I think that’s one of the reasons the culture is so stable and so positive. It’s cooperative, friendly and supportive. We’re a very ‘face-to-face’ company. I can’t fix a roller like Dary – but I can help fix problems so that our people can stay focused on our customers. That’s a common theme throughout the business – people can see how they contribute and that’s really positive. It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.

What makes a good company culture?

Personally, I think the key is treating people as individuals and understanding their needs. That means different things to different people depending on their circumstances.

We all work as a team, and we all cooperate – people can collaborate, and innovate, and just get on with stuff without being bogged down by things that can take up lots of time when there’s not a good culture. Another is the people, of course – our MD, Ian, has an in-depth understanding of how it all works and he’s an important part of the family tradition within the business. He’s like an Eveready bunny – on the go constantly, quick with ideas and focused on the future. People will go the extra mile at work because they feel part of the wider Conplant family and we all want to contribute to its success.

How do you go about maintaining culture at Conplant?

We do a few things that aren’t ‘usual’ for a business like ours. We use psychometric testing to help managers assess competency and fit – not just for the job itself, but the culture. We’re also very honest about what we are during the recruitment process. If you’re looking for somewhere shiny and corporate – this isn’t it!

For induction, most people come to Sydney. They have a safety induction, so they understand our expectation and focus in this area, it’s key to taking an ethical approach in business and it helps for them to understand the bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve. They spend time with Dary and Liam getting to know the products – the central figures in the business are very available.

People in front-line roles know they’re supported and they know who to call when they need help. The leaders in the business are very hands-on and travel all over Australia to keep in touch with our teams.It’s lots of little things that make the difference to our culture. If we’re all playing our parts in head office, everyone else can focus on serving our customers – because without that, none of us need to be here!

How important is it to provide support for employees?

It’s vital. People face challenges in their lives, and they bring their whole selves to work.

If someone’s going through something, or having a tough time, that’s an issue for us. It’s not just a ‘fluffy’ thing– it’s an imperative. Being supportive helps us keep our people safe and contributes to a positive culture. Many of our people are working around heavy equipment, so if they have a problem we try to find a practical way to help because it makes sense to do so. It helps keep them safe and allows them to focus on the job and the customer and that’s good for everyone. We have an employee assistance program in place for employees and managers to get practical support if it’s needed. It’s a pragmatic way of supporting people when they have other things going on in their lives that they may not want to talk about or share at work. We find that happy people do a good job. So we look for people who know what they enjoy doing, and try to find a good match.

How would you describe the ideal Conplant employee?

Solution-focused, accepts individual responsibility for their role in servicing the customer in a way that makes them want to come back to Conplant – and, of course, co-operative and flexible to fit with our culture.